Jay Turner discovers that the relatively common 1970-S cent comes in a variety of design differences, with the rarities worth over $3,000.
The 1970-S cent is not a rare coin by any stretch of the imagination. However, some
small design differences make this coin interesting and sought after by collectors.
In 1970, two different hubs were used to make dies for the coins obverse. These
two design differences became known as Small Date and Large Date varieties. Of the
two, the small date is much rarer than the large date.
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The terminology used to describe these varieties does not tell the whole story of
how they are different. The small date variety does indeed have a smaller date than
that of the large date, but there are other more dramatic differences between them.
The numbers that make up the date on the small date are level, while on the large
date, the 7 is noticeably lower than the 9 and 0. The zero on the small date is
more round compared to the oval zero on the large date. Also, the most notable difference
is not the date, but the representation of the word LIBERTY. On the small date,
LIBERTY is mushy and blurred and the LIBERTY on the large date is clear and sharp.
These differences are true for both mint state and proof coinage.
Condition is also a key factor for the small date cents. To date, NGC has only graded
four 1970-S small date cents MS67, one of which is red-brown. 181 coins have been
graded MS66, also a hard coin to make due to spotting, cuts, hits, friction, and
other issues. In MS64, the coins can sell for over $50. In MS66, the price jumps
to almost $300. Proof versions of the coin also are scarce with only a mere seven
graded PF69, and only three of those Ultra Cameo. A Proof 69 Ultra Cameo can exceed
$3,300. A generic PF69 can bring upwards of $900.
While many of these coins have been found, condition will continue to be a factor.
These coins are considered a must for any Lincoln cent collection and will remain
in demand for years to come.